The Advantages of Networking

networkingThe jobs available to most workers today are certainly different from those available to workers in past generations. The shift in today’s workforce is toward white-collar jobs and service employment. Unskilled labor is declining, and machines that have need of nothing but a little maintenance from time to time do many of the most tiresome jobs (Atchison, Belcher, & Thomsen, 2014).

Network in Action

The ability for workers to network gives organizations advantages that other organizations do not have. For instance, networked workers can leverage a great deal of information to help an organization (Alstyne, 1997). Networked workers are flexible workers (Madden & Jones, 2008). Cell Phones, laptops, desktops and an array of Internet tools allow the networked worker to work from home, the office, on vacation, in the air and everywhere else these devices can go. Technology has advanced in such a fashion that companies can be set up in one country, and be operated from the offices of another company anywhere in the world. Finally, the tools that networked workers use are cost effective. Internet connections are standard for every major company in the world. With this connectivity, workers have access to email, Internet tools, and a host of reference materials that can be accessed 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Among employed workers, 96% are making use of new communications technology in one way or the other (Madden & Jones, 2008). The benefits of networked workers are not exhausted by the three points made here, but they certainly provide ample proof of how networked workers benefit organizations globally.

Network Negativity

As sure as there are many benefits to an Internet savvy workforce, there are some negative connotations of the technology. These negativities can be looked at from two different points of view.

The Wired and Ready Worker

From the standpoint of the employee, new Information and communications technology (ICT) increases hours spent at work, inflames stress, and makes it harder to disconnect from work (Atchison, Belcher, & Thomsen, 2014). Value in the workplace comes from the creative source of the connected individual (Jarche, 2013). That simply means that when people interact together creativity is enhanced exponentially, allowing a company to advance. With pressure put on the collective body to create and get things done, time, energy and availability are taxed to a maximum. This causes workers to burn out quickly and feel as if they have no down time.

The Socially Conscious Organization

For the organization, networking brings new problems that must be addressed. By design, many organizations make social outlets, like email, cell phones, and laptops available to employees to encourage creativity and improve ideation; however, these outlets can be abused. Employees not only use these outlets for the good of the organization, but to send personal messages to family and friends. Some of these messages can be counterproductive to the organization and its mission. Too, there are times when Internet activity can cost money, and in this instance it is important the organizations know what is being charged for business activities, and what is being used in relationship to personal gain.

Challenges Give Way to Opportunities

Having looked at both positive and negative aspects of networking in today’s modern world of business, it is important to note that even the negative associations of networking are far less offensive as the alternative of not being networked. For the employee, the network still provides means for greater productivity with the ease of connectivity. When the employee is off, phones can be switched off, computers turned off, and email followed up on during the next business day. For the employer, the advancement of technology and networking means business at a faster pace than ever before. More work is being done in shorter amounts of time, allowing for cost effective products and more profits. Truly, a networked organization is an advantaged organization.

References
Alstyne, M. V. (1997). The state of network organization. Retrieved from MIT.edu: http://ccs.mit.edu/papers/CCSWP192/ccswp192.html#2

Atchison, T. J., Belcher, D. W., & Thomsen, D. J. (2014). Work, workers, and organizations. Retrieved from Distance learning Center: http://dlc.erieri.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=textbook.chpt04

Jarche, H. (2013, November 5). Networks are the new companies. Retrieved from Life in perpetual beta: http://www.jarche.com/2013/11/networks-are-the-new-companies/
Madden, M., & Jones, S. (2008, September 24). Networked Workers. Retrieved from Pew Research Center: http://www.pewinternet.org/2008/09/24/networked-workers/

  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • E-Mail
  • Facebook
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Diana April 4, 2014, 8:59 pm

    Your description of the negatives of networked employees covers the fundamental issues well. The wired-and-ready employees must learn to self-discipline in order to manage the demands of work and life. One could argue that the individual who spends eighty hours a week in the office would suffer burnout as well. The technology has not caused his burnout. Rather, his lack of shutting off the demands has caused his excessive behavior. Secondly, the personal use of company tools is not a new issue. Employee use of social media while at work has replaced gatherings at the water cooler. Neither contributes directly toward productivity, but coworkers’ connecting online might in some ways improve employees’ understandings of and relations with each other.
    One area of your discussion that I feel compelled to counter is your notion that networked employees give companies advantages. Not being networked would absolutely be a disadvantage, but I would contend that networked employees only put a company on par with it competitors. In order for the company to have any competitive advantage over its competitors, a firm must capitalize on opportunities for creative innovation. It is entirely possible that the creativity can be encouraged and created via networked employees, but only when the company is focused on achieving those goals.

    Reply
    • Jay April 5, 2014, 3:19 pm

      Diana,

      I appreciate your response. I would say you make a great point concerning competitive advantage and its relationship to being able to capitalize on opportunities; however, I would point out that some companies are more networked than others. In my world, working for a small firm, we are not as networked as a large conglomerate of funeral homes. That being said, networking has been slow going, but improving. It has definitely, I feel, given us an advantage in the sense of being able to capitalize on opportunities. The question, “How does this give us competitive advantage?” must be answered through the proficiency in which networking is used. That was my thought, but I do agree with you in the overall concept of networking as a necessary evil.

      Good reply,
      Jay Prewitt

      Reply
  • Britt Watwood April 5, 2014, 1:48 am

    Nice post. Diana raised some interesting points, but let me push back a little on another thing you said: “…it is important the organizations know what is being charged for business activities, and what is being used in relationship to personal gain.”

    I have seen organizations obsess over this…while at the same time expecting the employee to work from home with no overtime. It seems that you cannot have it both ways. If one blurs the line between work and home in work demands, is it reasonable to not blur the lines between when a person is online for work or personal reasons? Is the important issue the time or whether the outcome is met?

    Reply
    • Jay April 5, 2014, 3:28 pm

      I see your point play out where I work all the time. I have to be on call, i.e. work from home, a lot, but I get no pay. I was thinking more in line with computers at work that stayed at work, and employees using them when for personal reasons on company time. I do homework from work from time to time, with my managers knowledge , of course, but there are times when this privilege can be abused. So to answer your question, it would be whether the outcome is met, rather than the issue of time.

      Good thoughts,
      Thank you,

      Jay Prewitt

      Reply
  • Annette April 6, 2014, 6:36 pm

    As I read your post I was pondering a repeated theme I saw in other posts I read and my own as well. We talk of the negativity of being networked and how some workers could abuse the networking opportunities. I wonder how many companies out there are policing what their employees do on the internet. I know at my company we are band from certain sites, thus you would have to say this limits our networking. I know I have read stories of workers being fired for what they post on social media relating to work, and others fired for abusing the network.
    While I have not had to fire any of my staff for abuse, nor do I know of any situation like that in my company. I still wonder if others have “network police” at their companies?

    Reply

Leave a Comment